By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Summer vacation is a precious time coveted and cherished by students of all ages, but for many students, it’s also a crucial time for keeping up academically.
Spanning June and July, hundreds of Norman Public Schools students from K-12 are getting up early and going to school so as to stay on track for matriculation through the grades and ultimately graduate.
“Enrollment numbers usually fluctuate down a little, this year we have 410 elementary students (grades kindergarten to fourth), 100 middle school students (grades fifth to eighth) and 119 traditional classroom high school students, with an additional 69 taking online courses, “ said Assistant Superintendent Shirley Simmons.
With higher standards set by Common Core for reading levels, the importance of aiding students who score too low on aptitude exams has never been higher.
“Some big changes we’ve made are extending summer school through July for middle school students. Kids need extended opportunities to be reading,” Simmons said. “Also, high school students who fail Algebra 1, English 1 or English 2 may take it during the summer for free so students have less obstacles to graduation.”
Criteria for elementary and middle school students needing summer school is based upon a cutoff score in reading exams, as determined by the district’s literacy department and principals, but the ultimate deciding factor is a student’s socioeconomic standing.
“Summer school students in elementary and middle school have to be from a Title 1 school (schools which receive federal funding due to a large population of low-income students) or, if they are not from a Title 1 school, they must be on the free and reduced lunch program,” Simmons said.
These criteria are in place because the district uses federal funds to pay for elementary and middle summer school (high school summer courses charge fees), and therefore must uphold these stipulations on student eligibility.
“Federal requirements for summer school funding restrict eligibility,” Simmons said.
Norman students who do not meet eligibility standards but may still need additional schooling are not devoid of options, however.
Achieve3000, an online reading platform upon which NPS bases its summer coursework, is available to all NPS students throughout the summer.
“Students in summer school will be using Achieve3000 heavily, supplemented by class instruction and book talks, but the online database of lessons and articles is available to all NPS students at their respective grade level,” Simmons said.
Summer 2013 is the first summer season in which Achieve3000 will be available to all students, and Simmons said she is excited to see the results of this program.
“We’re already seeing big gains with Achieve3000, the articles are high-interest so it’s an instructional tool the students enjoy using. Since Common Core raised the standards for reading level we’ve seen improvements in students’ reading abilities — they have a higher goal to work hard for,” Simmons said.
Norman Public Schools’ partnership with Sodexo feeds students throughout the school year and summer school sessions, and hungry members of the community — particularly youth — are invited to eat with them during the summer.
Adams Elementary will provide “open site” meals during Elementary summer school, meaning any guest under 18 may join the students for breakfast or lunch, free of charge.
Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and lunch is served from 10:45 am to 12:30 p.m. Summer school at Adams is in session from now until June 27, Monday through Thursday.
“Most of our open site guests are kids,” said Sodexo General Manager Cindy Stanbrough. “Adults are welcome as well, but they pay $3.25 per meal. Open site attendance picks up once word gets out.”
Sodexo also provides daily free lunch in Andrews and Reeves Parks, open to all ages.
Reeves Park lunch is from 11 am to 11:45 a.m. and Andrews Park lunch is from noon to 1 p.m. All community members are welcome, take-home lunches are not offered.
“Anyone is welcome to join us, but they have to eat the lunch there. Usually it’s sandwiches, fruits and snacks,” Stanbrough said.
In addition to providing free meals to young and old this summer, Sodexo adheres to thorough nutrition guidelines, so all meals served are healthy.
“We offer a variety and make a point to provide fruits and veggies, we have a lot of nutritional guidelines to follow,” Stanbrough said.